The Need to Be Right

May 17, 2016

Categories: Humility

We often have a strong need to be right.

In the current political season, you see this all the time. Liberals and conservatives fight like cats and dogs, passionately arguing the ‘rightness’ of their positions. Turn on a cable news program, and you see political pundits on both sides of the aisle fiercely defending their party’s views and demonizing the ‘other.’

In the religious sphere, this happens as well. Fights and arguments break out between individuals and groups from different religious backgrounds, as well as between religious and non-religious individuals. Even within the same religion, it can be really important to be right. Currently, the leaders of the denomination of the church I attend, the United Methodist Church, are meeting to argue about issues such as gay marriage and ordination of LGBT clergy. These issues threaten to split the church. (Ironic for the ‘United’ Methodist Church, I know.)

I’ve been reading a book called Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, and one of his main points involves the importance of letting go of our need to be ‘right’ and instead commit to a stance of curiosity, learning, and humility. Dethmer makes a persuasive case that leaders are more effective when they engage with curiosity and humility, rather than defensiveness.

Engaging with curiosity, humility, and openness can help us in our personal relationships as well. When you are defensive and focused on your need to be right, you are closed off to connections with others, especially those who might be different from you. You are antagonistic, viewing others as an opponent to be defeated, rather than a teammate or partner to work with. Also, you are less likely to learn something new about yourself or the issue you are discussing.

In contrast, when you let go of your need to be right, you are open to connection with others and new learning opportunities. You are curious about others and their positions. You are more likely to learn something new about yourself and the issue you are discussing. This might lead you to change your stance or position, or it might not. But the interaction will likely go more smoothly and your chances of a positive outcome increases.

Discussion: How strong is your need to be right? What issues or topics are more likely to cause you to shut down or be defensive? What is one step you could take to engage with curiosity and humility?


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